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Publication Detail
Material turns in British history: III: Collecting: Colonial Bombay, Basra, Baghdad and the Enlightenment museum
This lecture explores the history of Enlightenment-era collecting of antiquities to probe the claims to universality of Western museums. Focusing on the British Museum's Enlightenment Gallery, it underscores the imperial and familial contexts of British collecting cultures. Questioning received narratives of collecting which highlight the role played by individual elite British men, it suggests that women, servants and non-European elites played instrumental parts in knowledge production and the acquisition of antiquities. The private correspondence of the East India Company civil servant Claudius Rich – the East India Company's Resident or diplomatic representative at Baghdad 1801–1821 – and his wife Mary (née Mackintosh) Rich illuminates social histories of knowledge and material culture that challenge interpretations of the British Museum's Enlightenment Gallery which privilege trade and discovery over empire.
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